ROCK ISLAND, Ill. – “One loss by suicide is too many,” said Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin during a press conference at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, in July.
September is Suicide Prevention Month and according the Defense Suicide Prevention Office, that prevention begins with connectedness. Having social connections and a feeling of belonging can be a protective factor against suicide, says the DPSO.
Connecting with others can be as simple as texting, calling or video chatting- anything that reduces an individual’s loneliness or perception that they are a burden.
“Prevention is a team effort,” said U.S. Army Joint Munitions Command Chaplain (Maj.) Rodney Gilliam. “You can help protect those in your community just by asking if they are all right. Listening to someone talk about their challenges, encouraging them to seek help or offering words of hope can make a world of difference to someone who may be in trouble.”
Concerned about someone and don’t know what to say? Want help but don’t know where to start? Gilliam says to start with him.
“Everyone has a role to play in preventing suicide,” Gilliam said. “Please know that I am here for all members of the JMC team at headquarters and at our arsenals, depots and ammunition plants to talk about anything. Everything you say to a chaplain in confidence is just that- confidential. Reach out to me at (309)206-9897 or firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Additionally, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available at 1-800-273-8255 for confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. If there is a service member or veteran in crisis, press 1 to reach the Veterans/Military Crisis Line for confidential support, text to 838255 or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat.
If you are concerned for someone’s safety, do not leave them alone. Seek help by calling the above lifelines or 9-1-1.
Suicide has been increasing nationwide and is a public health concern that affects communities regardless of civilian or military status. After controlling for differences in age and gender, military suicide rates are roughly equal to those of the general U.S. population.
“Suicide has a significant impact on the friends, family and other loved ones in the individual’s life,” said Dr. (Maj.) Brian Shiozawa, JMC’s command surgeon. “This is not just an Army issue; it’s a people issue. If you’re concerned about someone, reach out and connect. You could save a life.”
Suicide is preventable. Many, but not all, people who die by suicide exhibit warning signs. The Army Suicide Prevention Program lists these common signals that someone may be at risk:
- Talking about wanting to die or kill themselves.
- Looking for a way to kill themselves (e.g. searching online or buying a gun).
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
- Giving away valued possessions.
- Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
- Talking about being a burden to others.
- Increasing alcohol or drug use.
- Acting anxious or agitated, behaving recklessly.
- Sleeping too little or too much.
- Withdrawing or isolating themselves.
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
- Extreme mood swings.
If you or someone you know exhibits these signs, please seek help. In addition to the resources above, the following community resources are available for service members, their family members and their friends.
- The Army Suicide Prevention Program: ARD: SP2 (army.mil)